A chance meeting

Richard Bennet worked with Neil Diamond for 17 years before hooking up with Mark Knopfler.  

IT WAS nice to catch Richard Bennett all informal at his door. Sometimes you go straight to them on instinct that they turn out to be nice. The bearded Richard was more than nice. In the midst of getting prepared for his concert (playing the guitar for Mark Knopfler), he said he was fine spending a few minutes talking about himself and Knopfler.

What kind of music and guitar work does he like? He says "Hawaiian and jazz. "But I should say country and blues too have an equal say in me. And I grew up listening to lot of rock 'n' roll. It is really a stew of music."

Who has influenced him most? "Steve Phillips, Hank Marvin, Chet Atkins, Lonnie Johnson, Oscar Moore, Martin Grady, Bernie and the like." The heady '50s and the '60s are favourite era.

Richard has been playing the guitar for over 30 years now. He graduated from high school back in 1969 and moved to Los Angeles. "My training in music began on records in studios. I started as a studio musician."

How does he like it live? "Studio is all about controlled and focused drive and music. Live is about reacting to an audience and to your own music."

And then he surprises you on turns in his guitar career. "I've worked with Neil Diamond for 17 years. The connection happened through a musician friend of mine. I'd do the recording."

In 1985, he moved to Nashville as studio musician. There he met friends again who put him on to Knopfler. "That's how I got to know him. We hooked up and worked together and brought out our first album, Golden Heart."

On working with Neil Diamond and Knopfler? "Well, they are two different people. Two different approaches to music. Neil's background is the New York Tin Pan Alley kind, whereas Knopfler is from country and blues."

On Knopfler himself? What is it like to work with him? "I think he is one of the best living songwriters." And just as you walk back to the lobby, you find the man himself.

"Mark, I love your songs," says yours truly. He turns around and with a warm handshake and says: "Thanks very much."

Chance is beautiful.